Venture capital will steer to clean tech, smart metering

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - Venture capitalists, who have seeded new ideas for everything from Google to smart electric meters, expect increased investment in cleaner technology despite the recession, a survey showed recently.

A survey by the National Venture Capital Association found that 400 venture capitalists expect investment to drop in nearly every other area.

While there may be stable investment in life sciences and biotechnology, those surveyed believe semiconductors, media and entertainment and wireless communications will all suffer declines.

The loss of capital will cut across regions, hitting Israel, India and China and "the outlook is particularly grim in Europe," the survey said.

Venture firms will spend $29 billion to $30 billion by the year's end. A majority of those surveyed see that dropping 10 percent or more in 2009, except for cleaner technology.

"Despite lower investment predictions across all industry sectors, clean technology is viewed... as potentially growing in 2009," the survey found.

One reason for optimism about cleaner tech is government involvement. During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to spend $150 billion over the next decade to develop cleaner tech, creating 5 million jobs in the industry.

"Clean tech investing is going to come on strong in 2009 despite lower energy prices because there will be so much attention paid by governments around the world," said Ray Leach, chief executive of JumpStart, Inc, according to the survey.

Outside that area, venture capitalists expect to have trouble raising money and do not expect initial public offerings until 2010 or later.

That will hit returns for those who invest in the early stages of new enterprises, both in the short term, defined as three to five year, and in the longer term, five to 10 years, the survey said.

A bar graph of venture capital funding over the past decade looks like the support pylons of a roller coaster, rising to $104 billion in 2000 from $30 billion in 1998, only to crash to $3.8 billion in 2002, then rising back slowly to $36 billion by 2007. Now the figures have started to drop again.


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